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Thread: Favorite Bach pianists.

  1. #31
    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjetil Heggelund View Post
    I'm surprised at the resent for Hewitt...Whatsamatter? I think she is astonishing
    *shrug* I find her pretty boring and tedious. I'm not sure I've heard a more boring and less impressive chromatic fantasy and fugue than this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWQYLsuR6nE

    Listen to this Yudina as contrast: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN0wJdo71pM

    Yudina, I could listen to her playing all of WTK in one sitting. Hewitt not so much.
    Last edited by howlingfantods; Nov-12-2019 at 23:45.

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    Senior Member Bulldog's Avatar
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    I have mixed feelings about Hewitt's Bach. One thing she isn't is a "power" pianist who growls when needed, and Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue finds her missing when those elements are in front of her. On the other hand, she's an elegant and charming pianist; I have all her Bach recordings, and I'm glad to have them.

  4. #33
    Senior Member howlingfantods's Avatar
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    I think the main thing I look for in a Bach pianist is a strong feeling for counterpoint, and the use of dynamics, agogics, articulation for bringing out the different voices in a swirl of multivoiced textures. Thus my favorites Sokolov, Gould, Schepkin who excel where that type of contrapuntal clarity is concerned.

    What I most dislike in a Bach pianist is the feeling of hearing a melody and accompaniment, especially an overly gentle and lyrical melody and accompaniment as if the pianist was playing Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte or something, and that's what I mostly hear from Hewitt and Perahia for instance.

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  6. #34
    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by howlingfantods View Post
    *shrug* I find her pretty boring and tedious.
    I'd call her Bach "bland". It's all very well played, and Hyperion has always provided her with excellent sonics, but I don't sense a strong personality behind her playing.

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    What do you make of this?


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    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    What do you make of this?

    I've had the above disc for many years. Her Italian Concerto is one of her best efforts, especially the stunning 2nd movement.

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    I think a similar thing happened to Perahia -- a very promising start with some Schumann and Chopin and even some of the earliest recordings of the Mozart concertos.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-13-2019 at 21:17.

  11. #38
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    In general I very much like both Schiff and Hewitt for Bach on piano. I'm not crazy about the Hewitt version of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue posted in this thread, but I'm not really into any piano version I've heard of it. That particular work I think just works better on a harpsichord.
    Last edited by tdc; Nov-14-2019 at 11:07.

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    The paradox is that the chromatic fantasy has been so much adopted by modern piano players, I have recordings by the likes of Artur Schnabel and Claudio Arrau and Wilhelm Kempff and Ivan Moravec and Maria Tipo and Rosalyn Tureck and Maria Yudina and others, all using big bad concert grands tuned equally.

    But more interesting than that, Chris Hogwood recorded it with a clavichord! And a clavichord has some things in common with a piano - percussive sound production, some dynamics variation possibilities for individual notes and short phrases. I don’t have the booklet to his The Secret Bach to hand, I don’t know if he discusses his choice.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Nov-14-2019 at 11:41.

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    I agree with TDC that the chromatic fantasy and fugue is best served by the harpsichord. The weak tonal color of the piano works against the brilliance of the piece, which must be seen in the light of works like Buxtehude's organ toccatas and minor mode preludes. Also the chromatic parts of the piece are stressed by an unequal tuning. And the clavichord tends to dwarf the piece into something intimate and domestic, which it isn't.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kjetil Heggelund View Post
    I'm wondering who you love playing Bach on a modern piano. I was raised on Gould playing Goldberg, but have kind of tired of his very personal style. When I put on Bach these days it's probably Angela Hewitt or Andras Schiff. BUT, I just discovered Roger Woodward playing WTC and think he plays very soulful & beautiful. This subject probably already has a thread somewhere...
    For me it's Richter. It's his recording of the 48 that I return to more than any other

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    J.S. Bach is one of my top three favorite composers, & I've collected a great many recordings over the years, on both piano & harpsichord. Here's a list of my favorite Bach pianists put more or less in order of preference, for each of the following keyboard works:

    1) 6 Partitas:

    --1st choice: I'm keen on the 6 Partitas set by pianist turned harpsichordist now turned back to pianist, Virginia Black, released by CRD: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRhT...39toGAOGB-Hb8E
    --1st choice (tie): Vladimir Feltsman, on Camerata: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Je4n...V9P-M&index=33
    --2nd choice: Ivo Janssen, on VOID: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgMN..._51jrR9uCnYJds
    --3rd choice: Jean Louis Steuerman, on Philips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_cK...ZWT937l7-mIsHM
    --4th choice: Maria Tipo, for her more 'romantic' view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-GlU...Z0b8x8dMklyxaw.

    For a more unusual take on these works, Rosalyn Tureck is interesting, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7MR0...fuAVLi&index=2. However, when I'm in the mood to hear a more individualistic interpretation of the Partitas, I tend to reach for Glenn Gould over Tureck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pj5...Kqr2NKrAFfvGMl. I also prefer Gould to Carl Seemann, who I can find too rhythmically strict and inflexible in Bach. Despite the excellence of his playing, Seemann rarely seems to take a breathe or pause. His Bach is continually in forward motion, and I find it fatiguing to listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRBV...XqQVX0kVu70l7U

    Yet, I also partly agree with harpsichordist Scott Ross's remark about Glenn Gould's Bach in the documentary film, "Scott Ross, Playing & Teaching":

    "When I hear nutcases like Glenn Gould who do: [Ross plays a staccato version of J.S. Bach's Partita no. 1, BWV 825, Allemande], I say he understood nothing of Bach's music! I've listened carefully to his records: he didn't understand. He was very brilliant; I respect him up to a certain point. For me, the fact that an artist doesn't appear in public poses a problem. But at least he was a guy with the courage not to do things like other people. All the same, he was wide off the mark, so wide off the mark that you'd need a 747 to bring him back."

    In defense of Gould's idiosyncratic Bach interpretations, I should point out that Gould freely admitted he was making "transcriptions" of Bach's keyboard music for the piano, and therefore taking liberties. I'm reminded of the opening sentence of an article by Alex Ross for The New Yorker in 2018 (titled, "The Rebel Harpsichordists"), where Ross humorously writes, "If you know Bach's Goldberg Variations only through the eternally best-selling recordings by Glenn Gould, you have not really heard the work." To my mind, one could substitute the "6 Partitas" or "French Suites" or "English Suites", etc., for the "Goldberg Variations" here and Ross's sentence would still make sense and be valid. Although Gould may have been trying to mimic the pinpoint accuracy of a harpsichord by resorting to such staccato effects on the piano.

    Alexis Weissenberg is another pianist that can be challenging in the 6 Partitas, due to his occasional fast (even breakneck) tempi, which can give the impression of aloofness, & may not be for all listeners (on EMI, nos. 1-6--1966, & DG nos. 4 & 6--1980s): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtX0MoM3L1A. Nevertheless, Weissenberg was a student of the great Wanda Landowska and his Bach has its admirers.

    Among the well reviewed recordings that I don't know, I've not heard Igor Levit's 6 Partitas, but would imagine they're very good, considering that Levit plays late Beethoven with a baroque-like touch & sensibility: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg0E...itlu3Y&index=1. Nor have I heard Craig Sheppard, Tatiana Nikolayeva, Andras Schiff (ECM), or Richard Goode, either. In Nikolayeva's case, I don't think her 6 Partitas have ever made it to CD, as they were only ever available in a 4-LP Victor set, as far as I know.

    Historically, there's a brilliant recording of the Paritita no. 1 played by Rosita Renard live at Carnegie Hall in 1949: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huECfcya9bw. Dinu Lipatti's studio & live at the Besançon Festival recordings of the Partita no. 1 are favorites, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dsiO_qFZrDc. I'm also partial to Dubravka Tomsic in the Partita no. 1, on the discount Pilz label (a digital recording).

    (On harpsichord, Pascal Dubreuil is presently my #1 choice for the 6 Partitas, & I think he's great!: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDcu...Dck8zEy-qsZQgY. Pieter-Jan Belder is likewise excellent, but not nearly as well recorded.)

    2) 6 French Suites:

    --1st choice: My first pick is Ingrid Haebler, whose French Suites 1-6 were recorded for Philips in 1981-82. As you might expect, Haebler's Bach, like her Mozart & Haydn, is more refined and classically restrained than it is Romantic or highly expressive. Her phrasing is second to none. The set has been reissued by Tower Records Japan, and the sound quality is first class. Strongly recommended:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W_Cp...QtcYvTMk5yXAvK
    https://www.amazon.com/Bach-French-S.../dp/B00RUF9810

    --2nd choice: Among recordings of recent years, I've most enjoyed pianist Andrea Bacchetti's 6 French Suites on Sony, which I'd also strongly recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF1E...GpJlhTCU2Ik8M4

    --3rd choice: Bacchetti's interpretations make for an interesting comparison to Edward Aldwell's Hänssler set, as Aldwell interprets the music in a way that I find more similar to Gustav Leonhardt's view, albeit with the music transposed to a piano & with a bit of Schenkarian analysis applied to the score. As a result, Aldwell's rhythms aren't always entirely steady (similar to Wilhelm Furtwängler's conducting, who likewise used Schenkarian musical analysis to develop his interpretations): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BGS...OQIv2Tp7sGrySX.

    --4th choice: Andras Schiff, on Decca: https://www.amazon.com/Bach-French-S...s=music&sr=1-1 (though I've not heard Schiff's more recent live blu ray/DVD set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sDleZkIK-w)

    In addition, I wouldn't want to be without Emil Gilels' insightful French Suite no. 5, which was recorded in the studio for RCA Victor: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGDz...nNFl9q9Y_znZuX. Murray Perahia is also good in the French Suites, on DG: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oo6P...FFqU2maYmdY-Ag.

    In contrast, I can find parts of Glenn Gould's French Suites odd interpretatively: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2zT...h14jEkQoCSqqEH. Here, I concur with Ross's reaction to Gould's use of weird staccato effects & the need for a 747 jet airplane: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oYca9zEdldc. Gould also takes some unusually fast tempi, such as his speedy opening allemande to the French Suite no. 1--which I dislike, and arguably in parts of the French Suite no. 5, as well. It can take some adjusting to, and I wouldn't be surprised if some listeners aren't able to accept what Gould does in these movements. In my view, Gould's French Suites are among his more personal Bach performances.

    Audiophile choice: For a more youthful alternative to the above pianists, Caspar Frantz, is also very good in the French Suites, and has been recorded in state of the art audiophile sound by Ars Produktion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD4h...Uq8CFl4JW-y57c.

    Andrei Gavrilov is another pianist that is well regarded in the French Suites, which he has recorded twice: first for EMI, where his interpretations are in a similar style to Sviatoslav Richter's Bach (indeed Richter once remarked that it was difficult to tell the difference between himself and his protégé Gavrilov in their shared recordings of Handel's 16 keyboard Suites): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHHO...tgoLVdysPYgt7W, and secondly for DG, where Gavrilov was arguably more Gould influenced: For example, take note of the speedy opening allemande of Gavrilov's French Suite no. 1, as well as the more clipped phrasing in other movements throughout the DG set: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3dR...4Hf98qR7Hrp-a: Interestingly, Gavrilov once said that Richter & Gould were his two major influences in Bach during his formative years. While neither of Gavrilov's sets is a top choice of mine, I can see his EMI set being a favorite for those listeners looking for a well played set that takes a more 'romantic' view.

    Speaking of Richter, late in his career, Richter made a series of live concert recordings of selected French Suites for the Philips, Stradivarius, & Live Classics labels, which were recorded in the 1980s to early 1990s. These performances show Richter's Bach in a good, substantive light. However, I tend to prefer Richter's playing from the 1960s to the mid-1970s over the recordings he made in his later years (with some exceptions): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sdLRumvs-8

    I've not heard Tatiana Nikolayeva's French Suites 1-6--reissued by Scribendum, which she recorded in 1965, but her set is likely among the top picks:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l26QTcx9_yw
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wa8Lt6NvcIs

    (On harpsichord, I've most liked Bob van Asperen and Gustav Leonhardt in the French Suites, along with Christophe Rousset, and for alternative views, Blandine Rannou & Ton Koopman:

    --Bob van Asperen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPwbTmCXLb0
    --Gustav Leonhardt, Sony:https://www.amazon.com/Bach-Suites-F...s=music&sr=1-4)

    3) French Overture in B minor:

    1st--Edward Aldwell, on Biddulph: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsNy...cNwg4yTtZOdRIE
    2nd--Konstantin Lifschitz, on Denon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjUA4U-qT_8
    3rd--Alexis Weissenberg, on EMI: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Czj05Grmbcs
    4th--Jean Louis Steuerman, on Philips: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VL8gQ7p3rE
    5th--Ivo Janssen, on VOID: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDnK...FX8Tp1VcLcy4Uw
    6th--Piotr Anderszewski, on Harmonia Mundi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbDPNtP5oIE

    4) Two & Three Part Inventions, or 15 Inventions & Sinfonias:

    --1st choice: Tatiana Nikolayeva, recorded in April 1977, and released on CD by Harmonia Mundi, Olympia, & Mezhdunarodnaya Knig: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bL7oyuqEwA.
    --2nd choice: Peter Serkin, RCA: In certain movements, Serkin takes a more leisurely view than others, but I find his interpretations very beautiful, and wouldn't want to be without this recording. Plus, he doesn't pound on the keys in Bach as he does in Mozart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqjN...eqn-kGiOXjJBQM
    --3rd choice: Evgeni Koroliov, on Hänssler--more masterful Bach playing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Llmk...uFWbIlQWBMV0i8
    --4th choice: Vladimir Feltsman, on Camerata:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIXg...V9P-M&index=73
    https://www.amazon.com/J-S-Bach-Part...sr=1-1-catcorr
    --5th choice: Andras Schiff, on Decca: Schiff's Inventions & Sinfonias are certainly well played, but I'm not a huge fan of Schiff's ornamentation in this music, which at times can seem contrived, superficial, & needless decoration to my ears: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=31r5...30815D23046EC8
    --6th choice: Glenn Gould, on Columbia/Sony: It's a shame that Gould's Inventions & Sinfonias don't come in better sound, as his piano tone has been compromised as a result. Of all of Gould's Bach, this is the recording that could most use a "Zenph re-performance": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RCiy...6Vmfl1qf6DBMJ1

    I've not heard the East German pianist Amadeus Webersinke's 1978 recording:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8U2Zpek8LeU
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dxzMP9jrP8
    https://www.amazon.com/BACH-INVENTIO...sr=1-4-catcorr

    (On harpsichord, Bob van Asperen is magnificent in the Inventions & Sinfonias, and he's been recorded in state of the art audiophile sound. Plus, he generously includes the Little Preludes as a coupling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niQaxyMLn60)

    5) 6 English Suites:

    --1st choice: Ivo Pogorelich--English Suites 2 & 3, on DG: This recording isn't likely going to be for everyone, but I like Pogorelich's imagination & verve in Bach (& Scarlatti): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BojPbhE816c
    --2nd choice: Murray Perahia, on Sony--I'm still waiting for a great set of the 6 English Suites to be recorded on the piano, but in the meantime, Perahia offers a very good, reliable survey: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOr74wVsTJw

    Perahia's current competition:
    --Ivo Janssen, on VOID: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ephQ...qgoBYuPxfCe3_v
    --Andras Schiff, on Decca: Schiff's 6 English Suites recording won a Grammy award, but he does some odd things here & there, interpretatively, which don't always make sense to me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBOG...18A871EB08D2EB
    --Vladimir Feltsman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=118Y...vHG3JsHquAicmY
    --Andrea Bacchetti: I've not heard Bacchetti's Decca set, which is hard to find now.
    --Amadeus Webersinke: I've not heard this set, either.

    For a different take on the English Suites, Glenn Gould is unusual & quirky, but interesting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJb8...uZquw&index=11.

    (On harpsichord, my #1 choice is Christophe Rousset in the 6 English Suites, but I also like Bob Van Asperen & Pascal Dubreuil:

    Rousset:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYRwKcliRVw
    Dubreuil: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPmg...wdmuM_-0aP5aiU)

    6) Goldberg Variations:

    --1st choice: Glenn Gould, 1981 CBS--Along with Gould's late Toccatas, this is my favorite Bach recording by him: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QHHtwrqsrLE. In an interview with Tim Page, given late in Gould's life & career, Gould told Page that he didn't like or agree with his early Bach interpretations, which he called "the sins of my youth". So, evidently Gould would have agreed with my preference for his late Bach recordings & final Goldberg Variations. Here's the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaLoegXPpyk

    --1st choice (tie): Tatiana Nikolayeva--The great Russian pianist recorded the Goldberg Variations five times. I've most liked Nikolayeva's 1st recording made in February, 1979, released by Melodiya/JVC Victor Japan, and her 2nd recording made live in Denmark in April, 1983, released by the Classico label. I've least liked her 1992 Hyperion studio recording, where she can sound challenged in the faster movements, possibly due to poor health. Nevertheless, it's a fine performance:

    1st--1979 Melodiya (often mistakenly labeled 1971): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYKQJ-eZbkM
    2nd--Live in Denmark, 1983, Classico: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1lyWoI2cs4c
    3rd--Live in St. John's, Smith Square, London, 1986, BBC: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yK38nRVp6Vo

    I've not heard Nikolayeva's 1987 live recording at Berwald Hall, Stockholm, released by the Bluebell label. But I see that it's been posted on YT twice:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVAl47CpwOQ
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWBT...ZkNHREj6MFN35Q

    --2nd choice: Ivo Janssen--IMO, this is one of the best recordings from Janssen's complete survey on VOID. There are times when I prefer Janssen's Goldbergs to Gould's, which is saying something: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_aVQWXZfUE
    https://www.amazon.com/J-S-Bach-Gold.../dp/B004N4I36W
    --2nd choice (tie): Edward Aldwell, on Biddulph. I've also liked Aldwell's quieter, less extroverted approach, & admit that this may be more what Bach had in mind for Count Kaiserling's late night listening (unfortunately, the opening aria is missing on the YT link): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=enwc...BGv8HQ&index=2
    --3rd choice: Konstantin Lifschitz, on Denon (though I've not heard Lifschitz's later Orfeo recording):
    Opening aria: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3r58VS4wwQ
    Variations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S5PK...Dci4Mc&index=2
    --4th choice: Glenn Gould, on Columbia/Sony: 1955, Zenph re-performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah392lnFHxM
    --5th choice: Murray Perahia, on Sony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwEs...zrZ09KWI9MnQu6
    --6th choice: Rosalyn Tureck. People tend to disagree about which is Tureck's best recording, between her 1957 Goldbergs, the 1998 DG recording, and this VAI CD recorded live in the 1980s, which is my preference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVgL_Oy7dLM. Granted, it's an occasionally quirky (though beautiful) interpretation.

    Last but not least, my top historical pick for the Goldbergs is Maria Yudina's recording, which was included in Philips' Great Pianists series: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-lUn1Lexzog.

    (I've not heard David Jalbert, Evgeni Koroliov, Peter Serkin, Charles Rosen, or Beatrice Rana in this music.)

    (On harpsichord, Pascal Dubreuil's Rameé label recording is the finest I've heard; at least, I can't imagine the Goldbergs played any better than by Dubreuil, who is well recorded, too: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwvX...hdtQJjl_V_5_zc. But I also like Bob van Asperen, Pierre Hantai 1 & 2, and Ketil Haugsand in this music; as well as Blandine Rannou and Fabio Bonizzoni for their more individualistic interpretations.)

    Well, that's all for now, as I've used up my allowed space. I'll return to this thread later to write another post that covers my favorite pianists in the Well-Tempered Clavier, Books 1 & 2, Toccatas, Art of the Fugue, etc., and my most treasured 'desert island' CDs of selected Bach keyboard works; as well as my top picks for recordings of Bach's complete Keyboard Concertos.
    Last edited by Josquin13; Dec-06-2019 at 08:04.

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    Senior Member Heliogabo's Avatar
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    Vikingur Olaffson's recent album (DG) deserves attention. Don't miss it!

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    Senior Member wkasimer's Avatar
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    Thanks for a great survey!

    (I've not heard David Jalbert, Evgeni Koroliov, Peter Serkin, Charles Rosen, or Beatrice Rana in this music.)
    One name whose absence I note is Sergey Schepkin. Is that because you haven't heard any of his recordings, or because his playing doesn't appeal to you?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Josquin13 View Post
    J
    Haebler's French suites are nice, I agree.

    The thing that gets my goat about all these pianists, or nearly all of them, is their barefaced arrogance in overlaying modern piano effects on Bach's clavichord and harpsichord music. Gilding the lily. This is just a way to draw attention to themselves, a total absence of humility, modesty. And the result for me is that I become distracted by the ****-ing pianism. Haebler is no exception to this. I HATE PIANO PLAYERS.

    But yes, Haebler's French suites are nice. A nice travesty.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Dec-06-2019 at 18:36.

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